The rattling and humming has ended, at least for now.
U2 wrapped up its extended stay in Los Angeles on Wednesday night with a sold-out show at the Forum, the band’s fifth at the Inglewood arena before its Innocence and Experience tour heads east, to Denver and beyond.
Wednesday’s concert was actually the last of six in L.A., including U2’s visit last week to the comparatively minuscule Roxy. But sustained exposure to his fans’ adoration has never satisfied Bono’s appetite for more, of course. So Wednesday the frontman sauntered onstage with the Forum’s house lights still on, the better to see 17,000-something Angelenos cheer his arrival once more.
“The most beautiful sound in the world,” he said. “It’s you!”
Here are five thoughts from the show.
1. The band appears committed to changing things up.
When I met U2 last month in San Jose, the Edge talked about the potentially damaging effect of routine, how keeping a highly produced arena show the same every night can prevent the kind of liveliness the band is looking to put across. So although Wednesday’s concert opened, as every date on the tour has, with “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” U2 went on to play tunes I didn’t hear in San Jose, such as “Out of Control,” with bright, chiming guitar from the Edge, “Volcano” and “The Troubles,” which featured the Swedish singer Lykke Li dueting with Bono on a video screen.
2. Other changes were presumably unplanned.
Before “Every Breaking Wave,” the Edge’s piano malfunctioned, leading Bono to improvise for a few minutes while the band’s crew attempted a fix. First he wondered if James Corden, who the singer said was at the Forum, might entertain the crowd. Then he chatted with a woman holding a sign that said “Lesbians 4 Bono” and assured her that “Bono is for lesbians.” Another woman offered the frontman a bouquet of flowers, which prompted a few words on one of his favorite performers, Morrissey, who’s known for tossing gladioli during his performances. Finally, Bono spotted an Elvis impersonator in the crowd and invited him onstage for a bit of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
“People come to see U2 because something unexpected will happen,” Larry Mullen Jr. said in San Jose, and perhaps this is what he meant.
3. “Songs of Innocence” got a little redemption in a live setting. “Every Breaking Wave,” when at last the Edge played it, sounded lovely Wednesday in a stripped-down piano-ballad arrangement. But it was just one of several songs from U2’s polarizing “Songs of Innocence” album that seem to be coming alive on the road, along with the furious “Raised by Wolves” and “Iris (Hold Me Close),” Bono’s tender ode to his mother who died when he was 14. Dropped without warning into an estimated half-billion iTunes users’ accounts last year, these tunes made little (positive) impact. Here, though, they held up next to the band’s classics.
4. In fact, the new stuff had more life than some of those oldies. At the Forum, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and a handful of tunes from “Achtung Baby” – in particular a raunchy “Mysterious Ways” -- throbbed with electricity. Yet “With or Without You” and “Where the Streets Have No Name” felt rather obligatory, like a couple of aged aunties Bono is forbidden from leaving the house without visiting. Even “Pride (in the Name of Love),” which raised the hair on my arms in San Jose, kind of lumbered along Wednesday, proof that the Edge wasn’t fishing for a compliment when he told me that what you sometimes see at a U2 show is “four people trying to make something happen that’s not happening.”
5. This likely isn’t the last we’ll see of the Innocence and Experience tour. Though dates have been announced only through mid-November, Bono said the band is “considering coming back” in 2016. “There have to be some very good reasons to leave your family,” he told me. “Songs are at the top of that list, and then shows. If they’re really great, and you really feel it’s something special, then it’s worth all the hassle.”
Occasional clunkers aside, these shows were something special.